Recording Quick Screencasts on Android

When I’m testing mobile apps, I often create quick screencasts to accompany my bug reports. Screencasts are especially useful for capturing issues that aren’t visible in a static screenshot and for demonstrating the exact steps to reproduce the issue. I try to keep them as short as possible for easy viewing.

Lately, I’ve been using Android Debug Bridge (adb) for these screencasts on my Android test devices. With adb, you can create a screencast on the command line — no need to install any apps on the device or deal with convoluted steps to transfer the files. It also means I don’t have to open up Android Studio just to record my device. Quick and easy!

To get started:

  1. Make sure you have the Android SDK Platform-Tools package installed on your computer. You can install this package from the Android Studio SDK Manager or download the standalone SDK Platform-Tools package.
  2. On your Android device, go to Settings > System > About phone and tap Build Number seven times. This enables Developer options which you’ll now see under Settings > System. From there, you can enable USB debugging.

Once you have that setup done, connect your device to your computer via USB. You should get a prompt to allow USB debugging; you can set your device to always allow it from your computer, or choose to get that prompt each time you connect your device.

Now, recording a screencast is just four easy steps:

  1. On the command line, run adb devices. This isn’t strictly required, but I do it to make sure my test device is connected and authorized for USB debugging.
  2. Then, start the recording with adb shell screenrecord /sdcard/screencast.mp4 (specifying your desired directory/filename). The maximum recording time is 3 minutes.
  3. Stop the recording with Control + C (Command + C on Mac).
  4. Move the recording from your device to your computer with adb pull /sdcard/screencast.mp4. You can also specify a local destination for the recording, e.g. adb pull /sdcard/screencast.mp4 ~/Downloads/screencast.mp4.

That’s it! Your screencast is now available on your computer for you to handle however you need. You can also check out the adb documentation for more screen recording options and other useful actions you can take with adb.

Do you have any favorite tools for creating, editing, or sharing screencasts, especially on mobile devices? I’m always open to trying out something new!

Using WordPress. On Android. On a Mac.

I recently read an article on The Verge about how you can run Android apps on a Mac (or PC) using Chrome. That was all the invitation I needed to try it out. So off I went to find the three things I needed:
1. An APK
2. A PC, Mac, Linux, or Chromebook on Chrome Version 41+.
3. The ARC Welder app

I have a Mac, and you can download the ARC Welder app from the Chrome store, so all that was left was the APK. I’ve never owned an Android device, so I wasn’t sure what an APK was, but I assumed it was some kind of file type for Android apps. (It turns out APK stands for Android application package.) The article I read said you can get APKs from the Google Play Store, but I didn’t have any luck finding them there. Luckily, I had another idea.

I was most interested in testing (maybe you guessed already) the WordPress app. Since it’s an open-source app, I headed to the WordPress Android app repo on GitHub. There’s a release page there where you can download the APKs for all of the previous releases. Bingo!

After installing ARC Welder and adding the WordPress APK, the app fired up and I was ready to go. Easy peasy. The biggest challenge now is figuring out how to interact with a touch app on my laptop. For example, I have to tap twice to paste, rather than using a keyboard shortcut. But it’s really fun to explore the app this way, especially as it’s my first time interacting with the WordPress Android app (which is a bit different from the iOS app that I use on a daily basis).

And here I am, composing my first blog post on the app. Pretty neat. 🙂